Partially Buried University

Robert Smithson realized one of his first works of Land Art at Kent, Ohio in January 1970. “Partially Buried Woodshed” was an example of the process he called “entropy made visible”. At the time, Smithson said he had always wanted to bury a building.

For my part, I have always wanted to unearth a Smithson. Imagine that a 70 year-old man going by the name of Robert Smithson shows up here in Europe. Is he an impostor? An amnesiac? Suppose that Nancy Holt recognizes him as her husband and the James Cohan Gallery organizes an exhibition of his new work and the Art School at the University of Paris 1 invites him to realize an earthwork on its campus…
The centre Saint Charles (University of Paris 1) has a problem with rain water collecting on the roof and infiltrating the lecture hall just below. Inspired by two of Smithson’s projects, “Partially Buried University” involves creating a garden on the roof terrace to absorb the residual water. Since the roof was never intended to support the weight of growing trees and shrubs, it is likely to collapse. The garden can then develop on its own, with weeds springing up throughout the bulding.

A 3-D model of the roof was built, simulating weather conditions and plant growth. The visitor will be able to stand inside a 3-D projection of the building, on the second floor overlooking the roof which has been made into a garden. Using a flystick, she can choose seeds and move through the garden to plant them. After a number of people have sown poplars, cypresses, pines, maples and chestnut trees, the garden grows quickly, the roof just may give way and visitors suddenly find themselves climbing over rubble in the lecture hall below.
The prototype was first shown at the exhibition “La ville, son modèle et les artistes” at the Bellevilloise in January 2010 on a computer screen, using a mouse and keyboard. Since then it has been shown at the Kent State University Gallery of Art (in August-Sept 2010) and at the Galerie Michel Journiac at the Université Paris 1 (Panthéon-Sorbonne) in June 2011.
“Partially Buried Unversity” was produced by the Citu (Universités Paris 1 – Paris 8) as part of the TerraNumerica Program. Software development by Jordan Prot. The plant growth models courtesy of ECP-INRIA. The project would not have been possible without the energy and talent of the entire Citu team.

« Partially Buried University », ISEA 2011, Istanbul 14-21 Septembre 2011,

Territoires , catalogue de l’exposition du 16 au 30 juin 2011, à la Galerie Michel Journiac, Paris: l’École doctorale Arts Plastiques, Esthétique et Sciences de l’Art (APESA), Université Paris 1, 2013. Cover. PDF catalogue (36MB)

In French : « Ruines à l’envers: Retour à Kent State le 3 mai 2003 », Transactiv-exe (, août 2008.


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